Marching on..

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

Howdy all! Crazy to think it’s already mid March! I have been hearing from some of you who have been sharing final projects and they are looking great! As you finish up don’t forget to submit your project via the Final Project submission Form found in the course material.

I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Hong Kong this past weekend. It was great to be able to reconnect with so many educators and to make some new friends as well. I was able to attend two panel discussions that involved students. A theme that kept coming up over and over again was how much they yearned for more agency and ownership over their learning. They also talked about how much more engaged they were and how much more meaningful they felt school was when they were able to do “real stuff” that made a difference beyond their classrooms. The discussion definitely gave me food for thought.

Not sure why I noticed this but something made me notice how much more prevalent edtech companies are now becoming. This reinforced my believe that we as educators need to be advocates for not only what happens in our classrooms but how it happens. We need to be sharing what we’re doing as much as we can in as many ways in which we can. We’re competing against companies that sometimes have huge marketing an advertising budgets. Not that all companies are bad… it’s just that they don’t always have a focus on learning, but rather a focus on selling a product. Don’t get me wrong… some products are really good! But we as educators must be on the front lines sharing practices that allow us to achieve our goals and almost always this doesn’t come with purchasing a product or service alone. It comes with careful planning, design, and implementation in collaboration with others involved. Ok off my soapbox…

I’ll be in touch soon to set up a Hangout with each of you. Keep an eye out for an email from me!


New! Google Certified Educator Certificate opportunity for COETAILers

coetial google

I’m not sure if you’ve heard the news but COETAIL has partnered with Google for Education! This is very exciting news for current, former, and future COETAILers. Form Jeff’s blog:

A partnership that will allow COETAIL graduates priority access to apply to the Google for Education Certified Trainer (GET) program and future COETAILers to complete the COETAIL program and at the same time earn their Google for Education Certified Trainer credentials.

We are so excited that Google for Education chose to partner with COETAIL. COETAIL has always strived to be a leader in supporting educators in authentically and purposefully integrating technology into the classroom. The rigor and reflective nature of COETAIL and the GET program have many overlapping objectives and outcomes making this partnership one that will benefit COETAILers past, present, and future..

Pop on over to Jeff’s blog to read the full post or shoot me an email if you would like to learn more.

Course 5 Update- What I’ve Been Working On…

A quick check in post…

seesawI wanted to write to check in and to let you all know what I’ve been up to. I do so much reading about what you are up to through your blog posts I thought it’s about time I fill you in on what I’ve been working on. Probably the main project I’ve been working on since the beginning of the semester is launching a SeeSaw pilot in the elementary school. I’m happy to say that so far it is been well received.

A little bit of the backstory. At my school blogs have historically been in use as a place for students to reflect and post work. In the lower elementary Blogger has been utilized and then in middle and upper elementary WordPress the platform of choice. Students have used various apps as intermediaries to aid in posting. At first this was seen as a way to make things easier. But as time has passed certain apps are no longer supported and new ones have been sought out as replacements. Often the new app has some but not all features of the original app an therefore another app must be added to the mix… which often involves creating another account somewhere else. Over time what was once a process used for simplicity has turned into an extremely complicated process. Over the course of the semester I witnessed and heard deep levels of frustration with the process from both students, teachers, and parents.

But before we jumped in to try something new I sought to clarify what we were using blogs for in the first place. I did a lot of talking (and even more listening) with elementary leadership, teachers, and students. I pulled page views reports for random students blogs. I also talked with parents about how much they visited their child’s blogs whenever I had a parent presentation. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t presenting what I thought people needed, but rather providing people with a solution aimed at addressing a need they had expressed. After many conversations we worked together to clarify our intentions and to determine what a successful pilot would look like. To be honest people were so frustrated with the current situation I think it would have been easy to get people on board. But as we moved ahead I didn’t want to fall into the trap of losing focus on why we were using SeeSaw just because the process was easier than using blogs. Since this is a pilot it will be up to the teachers to determine if this is the direction they wish to go.

seesaw post

A snapshot of a SeeSaw post. The student added 2:19 of audio commentary to this post.

At the beginning of the pilot I had to gather support from four areas: Leadership, IT, Teachers, Students. Ineeded the support of leadership in going forward with the pilot as well as helping to clarify why we were using a learning journal/e-portfolio in the first place. I also needed financial support as I wanted to go with the premium version of SeeSaw as it provided many aspects/features that I thought would increase the likelihood for success. I needed support of IT as they would be the ones syncing SeeSaw with our Veracross students information system using a tool called Clever. This would allow all our SeeSaw classes to be populated automatically based on enrollment information in Veracross. If the pilot is successful it will also allow all of our student information to follow students from year to year. (We can also gather stats on usage etc.)

seesaw kids

A student using SeeSaw to capture himself reading a book.

The next area I needed buy in from was the teachers. I asked year level coordinators to see if anyone on their team was keen to give SeeSaw a go. We got at least one volunteer from each year level! With these three areas of support inline we launched the initial pilot. I met with each teacher to do a brief initial training and then scheduled a time to come in and launch SeeSaw with their students. I initially spent about an hour with the students exploring what SeeSaw was and how we could use it. They were all over it! They loved being able to see and comment on each others work. I followed up this initial lesson with a lesson on posting and commenting (and liking) using posts the students had made.

After all the initial pilot classes where up and running word started to spread and teachers started asking if they too could join the pilot. Exciting! The only problem is that I need to ask for more money as you pay per student. Luckily my school is very supportive (both leadership & IT) and we were given the green light to add more classes. I didn’t want to rush into things so I put off the second wave until the first wave teachers and I could meet a couple times to share what we were learning and address any potential sticky spots.

After about a month we launched another 1-2 classes per year level. In addition we opened the parent access feature with the first round of pilot classes. I left it up to the teachers to determine when they felt comfortable enough with SeeSaw to open to parents. We also wanted time to test the parent features so that we could support parents with whatever questions they may have.

Support… this is one thing that weighed in heavily in choosing SeeSaw. SeeSaw has created a rich resource content base. They have quite a few how-to videos and well as an extensive video library.

SeeSaw resource center.

SeeSaw resource center.

SeeSaw has an extensive selection of PD in Your PJ’s webinars that are recorded so you can watch when and where you have time. There is also a SeeSaw Teachers FB Group where teachers share ideas and ask questions. In addition SeeSaw has a Twitter Chat and a pretty active group of teachers tweeting about SeeSaw. This gives teachers plenty of places to find support, have questions answers, and find innovative and authentic ways to utilize SeeSaw with their students.

I know some of you are doing learning journals/e-portfolios for your final project and I would love to hear how it’s going for you!

In fact I’m sure everyone would love and update… so please chime in with a quick update in the comments.

Course 5 Underway!

So here we are at the beginning of the end… Course 5 is underway!

As I’m sure you have noticed the format for Course 5 is a bit different than the other courses. For starters the time period with which you have to complete the course is much longer! You will complete 4 blog posts, 5 comments, a final project presentation & post. These three components are due by May 7th.

Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the course. I have tried to make sure all links & dates have been updated. I inevitably miss one or two (as Christopher kindly pointed out) so if you come across a broken link or date that just doesn’t make sense please let me know so I can fix it!

I’d love to catch up with each of you via Google Hangout at some point during this course. If you would like to do that sooner than later please shoot me a message and we can arrange a time to chat.

I plan to do a post a week so please chime in to let us know how things are going!

As always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to give me a shout.

Wrapping up Course 4!

. (U.S. Navy photo by Candice Villarreal/Released)

. (U.S. Navy photo by Candice Villarreal/Released)

Can you believe it! We are approaching the end of Course 4! As you are all thinking about what you will be doing for your Course 5 final project I wanted to share my Course 5 final project… from way back in March 2012!

I know it can be tricky to nail down an idea. Remember this is not set in stone… if you change you mind that’s ok. That said we would rather you spend the time to create a kick butt UBD plan that you will be able to implement next semester. If that’s not possible we’ll go with what you can nail down at this point. Many of you will be working with others on this project and they might not be at a point where they are ready to commit time and resources yet. Just do your best!

If anyone is stuck and needs to talk through anything please shoot me an email and we can set up a time to chat.

I’m back into grading this weekend so look for feedback on your posts soon! Reading your posts and learning about what you are all up to in your classrooms is the most fun and inspiring part of my job!

Course 4 Week 4 Check-In

Hey all! I am having a blast reading your posts! I am super impressed with how well you are articulating your thoughts around the concepts we have been and are currently discussing. It’s also very motivating to see how you are all applying the content, concepts, tools, and skills we’ve covered in your classrooms!

We’ve had some issues with links breaking. Thanks to those who’ve given me a heads up on broken links. I’ve tried to fix the links that I know are broken as quickly as I can. Please let me know when you encounter any broken links and I will do my best to fix them in short order.

A coupe things:

  1. Please remember it’s good protocol to respond to comments left on your blog.
  2. I had a great conversation via Hangout with Online 6 participant Andrew Grover today. We talked through some general questions he had as well as questions specific to the final project. If you feel that a Hangout would be useful please shoot me a message and let’s set one up! I’m always happy to chat!
  3. Please leave a comment to this post with your current thoughts on your final project idea. If you don’t have a firm idea at this time that’s fine… just let us know some initial thoughts.

Course 4: Week 2 & Week 3

Howdy all! We are now into week 3! I hope you are all enjoying the content in Course 4. While I was working at the University of Kentucky over past couple years I learned a lot about, and worked with many schools who have or where implemented project based learning. I wanted to share a couple Hangouts I did with some folks where we discussed PBL and how best to implement it at your school. The first video is a Hangout I did with Randell Scherer a teacher who works at High Tech High in San Diego, California, USA.


The next video is a Hangout I did with Dr. Carmen Coleman. While serving as superintendent of Danville schools in Kentucky she implemented project based learning across the district. In our Hangout we talk about PBL and authentic assessment.


Finally I wanted to share a great video by another High Tech High art teacher I met named Jeff Robin entitled “What Project Based Learning Isn’t“. I can’t embed it here but it’s still worth a watch!

This week we’re into reverse instruction, game based learning, and PLAY!! I’m looking forward to seeing what you are all blogging about!

On a different note good luck to those job hunting this week!

Presentations From Learning2

Hello all! I was lucky enough to meet a few of you at the Learning2 conference this past week(end) in Ho Chi Minh City. I hope those of you who were not able to attend were able to follow along on social media. During the conference I saw that the Learning2 hashtag was trending in Malaysia and Singapore… how cool!

We always have really good Learning2 Leader talks and this year was no exception. Please take a moment to watch a few with and eye for the concepts and skills we have been learning about in Course 3. Let us know which one resonated with you the most!

Digital Storytelling

From Dave Lieber via Vimeo

From Dave Lieber via Vimeo

Howdy all… I haven’t been able to get to many of your recent posts as I was at an Apple Leadership Camp in Singapore the last part of last week through Sunday. (Who has a camp on Sunday!) If it’s one company that understands the importance of design… it’s Apple! I’m not sure if you’ve watched or attended an Apple event but they always have very high quality video pieces they use throughout their presentations. This event was no different. All in all it was a great event.

It was a nice reminder of the power of visuals and just how powerful digital storytelling can be. It was also a nice reminder of how attention to detail can really elevate the user experience. The thing with video… editing it can take sooooo loooooonnnnggg! But, the silver lining is that the more you do it the quicker you become at it. Case in point…. at the beginning of the year the Elementary leadership came to ask me one day after school if I would put together a video of students discussing why they love NIST so much. They wanted to show it at Back to School night… which was the next night! I had to get the footage, edit the footage, create the intros & outros, add parent comments, and mash it all together in way that made sense… all in the next school day! If they would have asked me a couple years ago to do all that in one day there is no way I could have done it. But since I’ve been working with video a bit over the past couple years I knew enough to get through it in a timely manner. The students were a hit!

So… it may take you a long time to work with video now… but you do get faster with practice!

Peter Alfred Hess via Flickr

Peter Alfred Hess via Flickr- It can be frustrating… don’t give up!

There are many mediums in addition to video with which you and/or your students can use tell a story. You just have to find the one that works for you. I’ve used many over the years in various projects with varying success. I mostly find the tools that have few features, but do them well, are the best to use with students.

**Does anyone have any tips, tricks, or things they’ve picked up along they way that they would like to share?

I’m looking forward to catching up with your posts later this week!